Why my lows aren't as low anymore
At the end of August my entire world fell apart. Everything felt uncertain and heavy. It was as if the universe was pulling all its stops to test me - had the events of August happened three years earlier I would have probably landed back in the hospital. I would have probably been prescribed an anti-depressant. I would have probably thought there was no reason to go on - but instead I was smiling, making plans, journalling, drinking tea, thinking: this doesn't hurt the way it use to.
Over the past three years I've honed in on my self-awareness, strengthened my emotional intelligence, and learned to protect my energy. My lows just aren't as low anymore and here are some reasons I think this might be:
1. I've learned the external world is a reflection of our internal worlds.
The law of attraction is real, though not as overly simplified as many suggest. What we put out comes back. This sucks when what we've been putting out hasn't been aligned with our highest good, but it's great with regard to situational depression. If the external world is a reflection of the internal world and we have control over our internal worlds, we have control over the things that show up for us. This is empowering! I've learned to harness this power and change my experience if I find myself in a situation I don't like. The things that use to feel like the end of the world have turned into road signs to redirect. Ending a relationship no longer means I will never love again - it means I have the chance to eliminate the limiting beliefs I have about love and manifest a stronger, happier, healthier relationship with someone who is even MORE suited to me and my life goals. Not getting into my preferred university doesn't mean I am doomed. It means I have space to learn more about who I am and what I want from life and apply to another program in a city I had never thought of.
2. Naps and showers are excellent ways to clear and recharge.
Negative energy sticks to me like glue - but until I realized what was happening, I would feel guilty for feeling so heavy and overrun throughout the day. I have always been a napper - I get tired more often than most of my friends and family members and that's OK. Instead of feeling guilty for needing down time I have started to embrace my naps as a form of self-care. A time where I get a break from taking on the world around me. I also cannot go to bed without first having a shower. I never understood why - but now I get it! It's to clear the negative energy I accumulate throughout the day. When I begin to feel low I have a nap and/or a shower - it's usually all I need to get back to my normal self.
3. It's OK to be soft, adaptable, open.
Most of the people I grew up with were not overly emotional (or not as emotional as my e/infj self ;)) so I grew up believing feeling things was not something I was suppose to do. This, like most things, carried over into my romantic relationships as I got older. I assumed it was unsafe to talk about my feelings so I let them build up, until they reached a point of self-sabotage. Embracing my sensitivity and learning to be open with my emotions has stopped this build up from happening. Instead of keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself, I now surround myself with people who like my sensitive nature - people who gently encourage me to share my heart when I begin to close off. Starting my blog and Instagram has also been helpful! Caring about people and the world and wanting to talk about real things does not make me less than - it makes me human.
4. Nutrition plays a part.
There was a time when I could not get out of bed. I thought I was depressed but it turns out I was just extremely low on B12 and magnesium. Once my naturopath gave me a B12 and magnesium shot, everything changed. Learning low energy, low mood and anxious thoughts/behaviours can be caused by a nutrient deficiency changed how I understood mental health. When low energy and low mood hit I no longer get upset for being "so depressed" - instead I take a supplement and walk myself to my local juice bar for a shot of fresh fruits and veggies. As a sensitive person, the slightest shift in nutrition affects me. Realizing low mood/anxiety is a way my body asks for the nutrients it needs has made me quicker to course correct when my mental health begins to slide.
Also related is my decision to become an informed vegan. As someone transitioning into veganism I've had to get intentional about whether or not I'm getting the right amount of nutrients in my meals. I'm also no longer carrying around the energy and karma of scared, tortured animals. This is never talked about but it's really, really important for sensitive folk.
*Veganism is not right for everyone. There are blood types that can't yet sustain a vegan lifestyle. Hopefully science will catch up and create the supplements these blood types need soon. Until then make sure you work with a trained professional when adopting a vegan lifestyle. If you're an animal lover who can't be vegan (for whatever reason), use your energy to support animal rights in a different way. Send love and gratitude to your meals, adopt a dog, petition against zoos; the options are endless.
5. I've learned my baseline.
We all have different baselines regarding mental health. As a sensitive person I spend a lot of time being affected by the world - so naturally I spend a lot of time feeling low. I can't help it! My friends who aren't as sensitive spend less time in a lower state. They don't get caught up in the world's problems, they aren't drawn to helping professions and they don't spend their days needing to support the vulnerable and oppressed. Just because I feel low doesn't mean I am depressed. It means I'm informed and aware. When I dip lower than my baseline I know I need to intervene. Whereas, if my friends were to dip to where I am in my day-to-day life, that would be cause for concern.
This is where self-awareness comes into play. I now know myself well enough to fight back when anyone suggests my deep thinking and concern for the world are premise for an anti-depressant. When I do feel lower, I know I need to pay attention and do the things that bring me back into balance, like mind my diet, get outside in nature, declutter my brain by writing a post, or go for a coffee date with a friend. Having a lower baseline may seem like a burden, but I don't think so. I can connect and relate to others in ways most people can't.
6. Life purpose is a journey, not a destination.
One of the biggest factors in my mental health over the years has been a need to find my life purpose. I know I'm not alone in this. Some of my lowest moments happened when I've felt as if I wasn't 'where I was suppose to be' or 'doing what I was suppose to do.' But what if the world really is our oyster and we can do whatever the heck we want to do on whatever timeline we want to do it? I will always be driven towards purpose, but what if purpose is in how I do the little things I do each day? And not a destination somewhere in the future? Remembering society determined the "right" way of living - and that I have the power to choose another way has been instrumental in minimizing some of my lows.
7. We aren't all clinically depressed.
There is a book called the DSM (or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders if you're interested) that determines if someone will be diagnosed with a mental illness. Meaning, depression is socially constructed; it's only a thing because we made it a thing. The DSM is a double-edged sword because our western world revolves around a medical model that favors diagnoses - so the DSM plays an important role in getting people the resources they need. Unfortunately though, because the criteria is so vague, it also medicalizes symptoms of every day life. Life is challenging at times but instead of talking about these things and normalizing them, the tight lipped nature of our society has people believing that feeling overwhelmed means they need to be fixed. Of course there are situations where diagnoses and medications are needed. Clinical depression is very real for so many people. It's just not as mainstream as our medical community makes it seem. Understanding why the DSM was created and what ideologies were behind its creation (hint, hint: diagnoses sell) is helpful in deciding if a diagnosis is the right choice. For me, it's not. I'm just a sensitive girl fully engaging with life... and that is perfectly normal. Healthy, even!
8. There is power in language.
There is a reason I explain my lows by saying I'm sensitive and not by saying I'm "mentally ill" - there is power in language. Suggesting my personality and needs are part of an 'illness' suggests they need to be fixed. But they don't. They just need to be embraced. I also believe suggesting who I am and what I need is a 'mental illness' takes away from people who identify with having a true mental illness. The personal is political and the language we use informs society and its norms.
9. I've learned to be assertive.
I spent much of my life being passive-aggressive. I was terrified to upset anyone by suggesting I had needs and that they deserved to be respected. I would "let things go" but actually just ruminate on how upset and angry I was about a situation or another's actions. The silent treatment was very prominent in my life. Thankfully this has changed and I have learned to be assertive; I've learned to set boundaries and communicate when I feel my boundaries have been crossed. This isn't always easy because I HATE conflict unless the conflict surrounds social justice/rights... but it's an important piece of my mental health so I lean into the discomfort. Most people respond in kind to an assertive conversation, however there are people who don't yet have that emotional capacity. That is okay - we are all at different places and if someone can't meet me half way, it's okay to enforce a mental and physical boundary to protect my energy.
10. Nature heals.
There is a big push for holistic medicine these days and it's wonderful because nature heals. I've always enjoyed nature and felt most at peace when I was working my summers at a tree nursery but it wasn't until I started to embrace natural health I was able to understand why this was. Nature is high vibrational; it clears negative energy from my sensitive energy system. My journey into natural health began with green smoothies but eventually I found myself in crystal shops and drawn to aromatherapy. These days I rely on nature to clear, balance and ground. I take regular trips to the beach, water front and/or garden. I walk bare feet in the dirt and take deep breaths of fresh air. I am intentional about bringing nature into my space and keeping my diet as plant-based as possible.
When I reflect on the power nature has had on my mental and physical health I can't help but have immense gratitude for the Indigenous peoples/cultures who carried this knowledge through Western oppression.
11. I get Reiki treatments.
And finally, I go for Reiki. When I was first rebalancing my energy system I went weekly but now that I've learned to clear, ground and protect my energy on my own I don't go as often. The Reiki Master I work with lives in my hometown and I make a point to visit with her when I'm home and feeling things are starting to feel off.